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Information Commissioner’s Office tells platforms to respect information rights when moderating online content

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is working to support people’s information rights online by ensuring organisations understand their data protection obligations when seeking to make their platforms safer.  

Content moderation is commonly used by organisations to analyse content generated by users to check if it’s appropriate for publication on their platforms. This process involves using people’s personal information and can cause harm if incorrect decisions are made. 

In the regulator’s first guidance on content moderation, the ICO outlines how data protection law applies to these processes and the impacts they can have on people’s information rights.

Decisions based on the wrong information could lead to a user’s content being incorrectly identified as being illegal or people being kicked off online platforms without reason. Under data protection law, people have the right to have inaccurate personal data corrected.

Stephen Almond, ICO Executive Director for Regulatory Risk said: “Content moderation decisions shape what we see and who we interact with online. It’s crucial that data protection is designed into these processes so that people have confidence in how their information is being used and can get redress if the wrong decisions are reached.”

The guidance will help organisations in scope of the Online Safety Act 2023 to comply with data protection law as they carry out content moderation to meet their online safety duties.

Gill Whitehead, Ofcom Group Director for Online Safety said:

“Effective content moderation will play a crucial role in creating a safer life online for people in the UK. Last year, Ofcom proposed how tech firms can protect their users from illegal content, and we’re working closely with the ICO to make sure companies protect people’s personal data in the process.”

This guidance forms part of the ICO’s ongoing collaboration with Ofcom on data protection and online safety technologies. We will update the guidance where appropriate to reflect technological developments and Ofcom’s finalised online safety codes of practice. 

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